Game time: Sunday, Dec. 23, 1:00 p.m. ET, EverBank Field
Weather: low-50s, sunny
Records: Patriots (10-4) at Jaguars (2-12)
1. Can the Pats avoid the dreaded trap game?
We know, "trap games" have about as much scientific support as Bigfoot but that's not really the point. At this stage of the proceedings, you want to cover your bases because New England is still in the mix for the No. 2 seed, which guarantees them a first-round playoff bye. So with that in mind, is there any chance the Pats show up in Jacksonville so flat that they somehow lose to the two-win Jags. In a word: no. Mainly because New England has Tom Brady but also because coach Bill Belichick won't let it happen.
"We're grinding through here on Jacksonville," he said Wednesday. "I think this is a team that has really played very competitively over the last few weeks. Offensively, they have real good firepower. Defensively, they're very big and physical inside. They play hard [and] I think they're well coached.
"They've done a great job the last few weeks of not turning the ball over, playing error-free," he continued. "That's something that obviously we have to do a better job of based on last week. I know it starts with that. They're a very good, competitive football team that works hard, makes you earn what you get. We're going to have to do a good job down there to come up with anything."
2. Should we be concerned by the four turnovers in last week's loss to the 49ers?
Sure, you can be concerned about it but again, as long as Tom Brady is under center the Patriots will have a fantastic chance to win. Think about it this way: New England trailed San Francisco 31-3. Brady led the Pats back to tie the score only to watch the defense promptly allow the 49ers to score on their very next possession. Brady can overcome many of his mistakes. As for Stevan Ridley's recent fumbling issues, if he doesn't solve them he'll be on the bench where he can't fumble. Belichick won't stand for turnovers and he parked Ridley on the sidelines for most of the second half as a consequence.
3. Who's the one Jags player that should scare the Pats?
We don't know if "scare" is the right word -- nobody on Jacksonville is particularly scary (at least when it comes to football), but we suppose quarterback Chad Henne could pose problems if he gets hot. The problem, of course, is that he's struggled with consistency his entire career, dating back to his days in Miami. That said, he threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns against the Pats in Week 1 of the 2011 season, and had 354 passing yards and two more TDs versus the Texans earlier this season. So unless the Patriots secondary forgets how to run, things should play out as expected.